Fatal error: the system has become unstable or is busy, it says “Enter to return to Windows or press Control-Alt-Delete to restart your computer. If you do this you will lose any unsaved information in all open applications.”
You have just been struck by the Blue Screen of Death.
Anyone who uses Microsoft Windows will be familiar with this. What can you do? More importantly, how can you prevent it happening?
The number one reason why Windows crashes is hardware conflict. Each hardware device communicates to other devices through an interrupt request channel (IRQ). These are supposed to be unique for each device.
For example, a printer usually connects internally on IRQ 7. The keyboard usually uses IRQ 1 and the floppy disk drive IRQ 6. Each device will try to hog a single IRQ for itself.
If there are a lot of devices, or if they are not installed properly, two of them may end up sharing the same IRQ number. When the user tries to use both devices at the same time, a crash can happen. The way to check if your computer has a hardware conflict is through the following route:
Start-Settings-Control Panel-System-Device Manager
Often if a device has a problem a yellow ‘!‘ appears next to its description in the Device Manager. Highlight Computer (in the Device Manager) and press Properties to see the IRQ numbers used by your computer. If the IRQ number appears twice, two devices may be using it.
Ram (random-access memory) problems might bring on the blue screen of death with a message saying Fatal Exception Error. A fatal error indicates a serious hardware problem. Sometimes it may mean a part is damaged and will need replacing.
But a fatal error caused by Ram might be caused by a mismatch of chips.
One way around this problem is to enter the BIOS settings and increase the wait state of the Ram. This can make it more stable.
Another way to troubleshoot a suspected Ram problem is to rearrange the Ram chips on the motherboard, or take some of them out. Then try to repeat the circumstances that caused the crash. When handling Ram try not to touch the gold connections, as they can be easily damaged.
Every motherboard is supplied with a range of chip set settings that are decided in the factory. A common way to access these settings is to press the F2 or delete button during the first few seconds of a boot-up.
Once inside the BIOS, great care should be taken. It is a good idea to write down on a piece of paper all the settings that appear on the screen. That way, if you change something and the computer becomes more unstable, you will know what settings to revert to.
Hard disk drives
After a few weeks, the information on a hard disk drive starts to become piecemeal or fragmented. It is a good idea to defragment the hard disk every week or so, to prevent the disk from causing a screen freeze.
Go to Start-Programs-Accessories-System Tools-Disk Defragmenter
This will start the procedure. You will be unable to write data to the hard drive (to save it) while the disk is defragmenting,
Some lockups and screen freezes caused by hard disk problems can be solved by reducing the read-ahead optimisation. This can be adjusted by going to
Start-Settings-Control Panel-System Icon-Performance-File System-Hard Disk.
Often the first sign of a virus infection is instability. Some viruses erase the boot sector of a hard drive, making it impossible to start. This is why it is a good idea to create a Windows start-up disk.
Go to Start-Settings-Control Panel-Add/Remove Programs
Here, look for the Start Up Disk tab. Virus protection requires constant vigilance.
A virus scanner requires a list of virus signatures in order to be able to identify viruses. These signatures are stored in a DAT file. DAT files should be updated weekly from the website of your antivirus software manufacturer.
The action of sending a document to print creates a bigger file, often called a postscript file.
Printers have only a small amount of memory, called a buffer. This can be easily overloaded. Printing a document also uses a considerable amount of CPU power. This will also slow down the computer’s performance.
If the printer is trying to print unusual characters, these might not be recognized and can crash the computer. Sometimes printers will not recover from a crash because of confusion in the buffer. A good way to clear the buffer is to unplug the printer for ten seconds. Booting up from a powerless state, also called a cold boot, will restore the printer’s default settings and you may be able to carry on.
A common cause of computer crash is faulty or badly-installed software. Often the problem can be cured by uninstalling the software and then re installing
The System Registry can be corrupted by old references to obsolete software that you thought was uninstalled it.
Central processing units (CPUs) are usually equipped with fans to keep them cool. If the fan fails or if the CPU gets old it may start to overheat and generate a particular kind of error called a kernel error.
This is a common problem in chips that have been overclocked to operate at higher speeds than they are supposed to.
Power supply problems
With all the new construction going on around the country the steady supply of electricity has become disrupted. A power surge or spike can crash a computer as easily as a power cut.
If this has become a nuisance for you then consider buying a uninterrupted power supply (UPS). This will give you a clean power supply when there is electricity, and it will give you a few minutes to perform a controlled shutdown in case of a power cut.
It is a good investment if your data are critical, because a power cut will cause any unsaved data to be lost.